Kurt Verlin
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FIA President Expresses Desire for Bigger Grid Amid Rumors of Chinese F1 Team

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Jean Todt

Jean Todt, president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA)
Photo: Vinod Divakaran

FIA President Jean Todt has shared his desire to see the current Formula One grid expand to 12 teams and 24 drivers, up from the current 10 teams and 20 drivers after Manor Racing folded after the 2016 season.

Todt has revealed that a number of new teams have expressed interest in joining Formula One in the near future, which only reinforces the rumors of a new F1 team out of China. On May 20, a British-registered company named Bronze Fortune Ltd, which has been in business since 2003, was renamed to China F1 Racing Team Ltd.

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Though there wasn’t much else of substance there at the time, more rumors of a new team have been swirling as some agencies have not-so-subtly begun to attempt recruiting members of existing teams.

“A number of our employees were asked whether they would come to work for a new team,” said Christian Horner, team principal for the Red Bull Racing team. “But, if they want to join as early as next year, they are actually too late.”

Should a new team be joining the sport, it could only do so in 2019 at the earliest, because one of the first requirements is to secure an entry in the FIA World Championship, for which prospective teams must submit a form by March 1 two years ahead of time.

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Alain Prost, the four-time champion who also ran his own team from 1997 to 2001, welcomes the rumors. “I can say that whoever wants to start a private team today has it easier than in my time. That was probably the worst time ever,” he said. “We never received more than $10 million [from F1], but we paid $28 million in the first year for engines, 30 in the second—how is that supposed to work? Today, every team gets at least $40 million in prize money.”

New teams may also feel more encouraged to join the sport now that it is under promising new management with Liberty Media, which may seek to set budget caps in the coming years.

Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.